|Looking for that perfect bridal shower gift? Every
bride needs a commonsense guide to the etiquette that really
matters. Let Wedding Etiquette Hell: A Bride's
Bible for Avoiding Everlasting Damnation by Jeanne
Hamilton be your guide.
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When I was married a few years ago, I had the most
uncomfortable bridal shower on record. For background, my then fiancé and
I were both in our mid to late 30's, professionals and both had fully stocked,
separate houses. Our wedding was to be in my parent's hometown, which would be a
moderate to expensive trip for our guests. Since we were combining households,
and already having a burden of costs for most of guests, we made it clear we did
not expect gifts. We would be thrilled just to have our guests able to make the
The Best Man's wife was a casual acquaintance of mine. We
never really clicked or were close, but more of the 'Hey Neighbor' type and that
worked for us. During the year I was engaged, she kept inquiring about a shower.
I told her over and over there would be no shower. I had only lived in the same
metropolitan area of my fiancé for less than a year and had no close girl
friends there. All of my close girl friends and family were spread out by
thousands of miles. The only women I knew were wives of friends of my fiancé,
and were casual friendships at best. The Best Man's wife was getting upset over
the prospect of no shower. She grew up with an attitude that women were wasted
in college, in careers, and if they didn't get married at 21, with a shower,
they would regret it the rest of their lives! I should also point out that at no
time did she even offer to host a shower. She just kept asking when someone else
would host it.
In addition, the Best Man's wife kept pestering me about my
bridal registry. Again, we didn't expect gifts, but for my family (who didn't
travel and wanted to buy gifts), I did register for china, silverware, and
crystal, as is the custom where I grew up, and no more. No hyped up lists of
pots and pans, linens, padded with corkscrews, $20 knick knacks, etc that I
often see from brides intent of gathering as much smaller items as possible to
return for one large item. She kept demanding that I put more on the list.
I kept telling her I wasn't comfortable with it, wasn't expecting gifts due to
the travel costs her family was incurring already on our behalf, and that is she
did want to give me a gift, I'm sure she would pick out a lovely item that I
would love and cherish! Not good enough!!! I gave in and went back to the
department store and added one set of bedroom linens, a few utility pots and
pans, and bar stemware to my registry. I figured it was enough to at least give
her ideas for my taste and still allow her to select a personally chosen
Two weeks prior to my wedding was the bachelor party.
The wives of my fiancé's friends planned a pot luck get together since the
'guys' were out. I was asked to bring a side dish. Not a biggee. All the couples
used to get together enough that I was comfortable with them and getting to know
them better. I walked in the door of the apartment of one of the wives to
see a table laden in white, ribboned boxes. My jaw hit the ground. I joked with
the wife, "What adorable decor you use for your house!" She smiled,
and her smile was tense and a bit.... well... she smiled through clenched teeth
and muttered, "<Best Man's Wife> has a surprise for you."
The other wives were sitting and Best Man's Wife was acting like a Queen Bee. I
put on my best bright eyed and bush tailed smile and greeted everyone with hugs
and kisses. The other wives were all much, MUCH more tense than the first
The ENTIRE hour we enjoyed our pot luck dinner, NO ONE AT ALL
mentioned the gifts in the living room, or the fact that we were all at a
surprise shower for me. Its was the biggest Pink Elephant in the room. (With
White Tulle bows.) Now, I should point out something here. Only
two of the wives (there were about 7 total), had been invited to the
wedding. The reception hall was small, and our lists were tight, and it was over
1000 miles away. I was NOT inviting people for the sake of trolling for gifts.
One of the biggest rules with Showers is that you NEVER invite people who have
not been invited to the wedding. (Yes, I realize that their husbands, who were
also not invited, were at the bachelor party, but it was a night of drinking
they themselves planned, not a gift grab.) Furthermore, I found out later, the
Best Man's wife bought all of the gifts (so they would coordinate!) and gave the
other wives a bill to pay. The other wife who had been invited had already spent
a large sum on a lovely present for us, only to be told she had to pay for
After the hour of everyone eyeing up the Pink Elephant (and a
few evil eyes shot my way as though it was my fault), I opened the gifts, made
the appropriate ooooohs and ahhhhhs, and thanked everyone profusely. I was
thankful she didn't try to pull any silly games and left when the other wives
were ready to leave. Thank you notes were sent, as well as a small flower
arrangement to both the wife whose apartment was shanghaied and to the Best
Man's wife for her efforts. For anyone who thinks Surprise Parties
are good things, please, PLEASE think twice!!!!
How do you end a friendship? Do what this bride did. I
volunteered to hold a shower for a friend and co-worker. The other co-hostess
was having some money issues. No big deal, we're all friends, right. So, at my
own expense, I bought invitations, matching thank-yous for the bride,
decorations, reserved a room at a restaurant and paid for drinks and appetizers.
I was happy to do this for my friend. I should mention that this particular
bride, met, got engaged and married her husband all between the dates when I got
engaged and was married. My wedding was further off, it was her turn to be the
center of attention, I was very happy for her. The shower went wonderfully, it
was all friends from work as I found out later she was thrown two other
At the very end, when everyone was leaving and I was
graciously accepting acknowledgement for a wonderful party, the bride loudly
told everyone in the room that I was only doing this so she would throw a shower
for me. I believe I turned three shades of red, had smoke coming out of my ears,
and was stunned silent. I set about distancing myself, and after she sang a solo
in my wedding, I refused to talk to her again.
Wait a minute! You began to distance
yourself from the woman yet not enough to decline her soloist singing services
for your wedding until afterwards? How do you end a friendship? You
decline her singing services for your wedding immediately upon determining you had no intention of continuing the
relationship any further.
I have to share this story about a bridal shower I recently
attended. Some background: This was a surprise shower, hosted by the
bride's mother and three sisters. I know the bride because my husband and
her fiancé are good friends, so naturally we became friends. We aren't
terribly close, but have spent time together without our significant others
present and I enjoy her company - she's very nice. She has a young
daughter from a previous relationship who is as cute as can be.
The bride and her fiancé were going to get married later on
in the year, but due to financial constraints and the fact that she became
pregnant (something about which everyone was happy, as her fiancé really wanted
to be a father) they decided to move the wedding up to a weekday afternoon at
the local courthouse.
Getting back to the shower, one of the bride's sisters
e-mailed me announcing the shower, which was originally to be hosted at the
bride's mother's house since it was a surprise. I intended to go and was
very excited. The bride had missed my shower but got me a very nice gift.
She wasn't registered anywhere, but I went out and bought a very nice picture
frame, scented candle, and a gift card to a local home and bath store. In
all I spent about $75.
A few days before the shower I received another e-mail from
the bride's sister, saying that the location had been changed to a local
restaurant. When I arrived at the restaurant, the sisters implied that
their mother was taking care of financial matters by saying that "Mom's got
everything covered" and such. I probably shouldn't have assumed that
our meals were being paid for, but since this was a luncheon and it was hosted
by 4 women I did assume.
The bride was very surprised and we all shared some decent
conversation. The bride's mother ordered appetizers and encouraged all of
us to order more food. I was a bit hungry so I had a bite of an appetizer
and ordered a salad. Out of the 12 women there, only one other woman and I
had the manners to wait to eat until everyone was served, to put our napkins on
our laps and use them, and who spoke proper English and said please and thank
you. The conversation was awkward to say the least, simply because there
had been no introductions and only the bride's sisters and two other girls knew
each other, so the rest of us were left to sit silently and smile.
After lunch and cake (which was very good), the check arrived
and the bride's mother gave our server her credit card. Then she passed
the bill down the table and told everyone to look at how much they owed! I
was speechless. Additionally, I only had enough cash to pay for the
parking garage where I parked. I offered to go to the ATM, but was
informed not so nicely that "then we'd all have 20's and that wouldn't do
us any good either." I guess that's what happens to you when you
assume. After the shower I called my mother and told her the situation and
how I had to pay and she was shocked, as were a couple of my friends after I
told them this story. I wanted other perspectives before I felt fully
To add to that, my husband and I don't have a lot of extra
money. We own our home and he works in real estate, and the market has
been slow. Therefore, we were saving most of our money and had stopped
going out to eat. My salad was $12, and had I known I was going to pay, I
would not have eaten that afternoon. It wasn't in my budget.
I apologized for only having a credit card (and I didn't
expect our server to split a bill into 12 separate checks) and the bride's
mother told me I could just pay her at the wedding, which is this week. My
meal was $12 so I'll be giving her $15 - my meal plus $3, which is more than a
20 percent tip, I believe.
After the shower the bride thanked everyone and the crowd kind
of just left, without many formal goodbyes. I left slightly insulted.
I spent a lot of money on a gift, and I'm glad I did because the bride had
nothing to do with this whole thing, and DH and I will be giving them $100 as a
wedding present. I just wish it had not been implied that the bride's
mother was paying for everyone's lunch. Since four women hosted it, and
only 12 attended, even if each person's share was $20, that would equal $240,
but divided between four women would be $60 each. If it wasn't in their
budget, that's perfectly fine, but then the shower should not have been hosted
at a restaurant. Oh well, live and learn, and never assume, I suppose.
Bear with me while I give you the back story because it all
becomes pertinent later.
I married a 28 year old man at the age of 19 (and yes, that
ended 6 years later when he could no longer control me), but at this point in
1993, all was going well. Well, except that I had wanted to elope and the
Momma’s Boy I was about to marry let it slip to his mother that we were, and
the next thing I knew, she and my mother were planning a wedding for 150 of
their closest friends. My MOH was a high school friend, and my bridesmaids were
my 12 year old sister, as well as my two future sisters-in-law. I had expressed
to the MOH and everyone that would listen that I hated bridal showers. In fact,
I hate bridal/baby/anything showers. I have always thought they were boring,
silly, and an excuse to mooch gifts, though I never expanded on that out loud
during this time. A bachelorette party was out of the question, as I was
underage and couldn’t get in anywhere, though I am happy to report, at least,
that I had a good drinking session with the bridal party (minus my sister, of
course) at home before the wedding at a barbeque we threw in lieu of a
Anyway, about two weeks before the wedding, while I am sitting
around at home in sweats and a tee shirt, my future SiL, “Judy”, drags me
out of the house and takes me to the other future SiL’s house, “Cathy”,
where lo and behold, they were throwing a surprise bridal shower. There were
five guests, all of them friends of Cathy’s that had treated the 19 year old
child bride in the most condescending manner imaginable in the past at other
functions. I mean, these women were snobs to begin with, but I can only imagine
what they were saying behind my back, given that my future husband was at least
three years older than any of them were, and I was not imagining things when I
had been made to feel incredibly uncomfortable before. I was always very civil
with them, however, so they had no idea that I could barely stand them. My MOH
had never been invited, nor had my sister. So I felt out of place, bored, and
uncomfortable at a shower thrown for me from moment one. Worse yet, not one of
them had even been invited to the wedding.
One of the women kept mooching cigarettes off me as she told
me all about her emphysema, which was distinctly uncomfortable. I was hitting
the sangria a bit hard just to cope yet too on edge to even catch a buzz, and if
any of the rest of them talked to me at all, it was to ask me all about the
wedding that they weren’t invited to. We played a few games, I think, and when
I stepped out back to have a cigarette, Cathy appears with a piñata, Judy
blindfolds me, and someone else hands me a broomstick. I never got a chance to
extinguish the cigarette as they spun me around and told me to hit the piñata.
Flash bulbs were going off, and every picture taken of that moment is a study in
ultimate class. There I am, cigarette dangling from my lips, wearing sweats and
a tee shirt, banging away at a piñata while surrounded by snobby women I
didn’t know in sundresses.
Truthfully, I appreciated what Judy and Cathy did, because
it’s really the thought that counts. They obviously cared enough to throw me a
shower, and that was meaningful to me then, as it is now, though we are no
longer in touch. However, this is one of the most uncomfortable experiences of
my life. Needless to say, when I did finally marry the right man about six
months ago, I did it all on my own terms.
My mother was hosting a bridal shower for one of her cousins.
Everyone was having a great time when some more cousins, three sisters, of
hers stopped in rather late for the festivities. They had brought their
own cake, but not for the bride. Since the whole family was together
they thought that it would be a good time to bring a birthday cake for one of
the sisters! To make matters worse one of the sisters had brought along
her young daughter who had a big temper tantrum in the middle of the living room
floor in front of everyone, and the mother of the child didn't do a thing to
stop her screaming. I don't remember if anyone even had a piece of the
birthday cake, but its competing cake that was for the bride definitely got
My mom & I were invited to attend a distant cousin’s
bridal shower. I’m not quite sure exactly how we are related, but I knew
that my aunts and first cousins would also be attending. We were all very
excited because this was the first person from our generation to be getting
married. My mom couldn’t attend due to the fact that she was going to be
traveling out of town with my dad at the time. So, we went shopping to
pick out a registry gift together & about a month later, I headed to the
bridal shower alone (knowing that I would be sitting with my family). We
all had a great time, playing the games, eating the food, watching the bride
& groom open their gifts. I think she was only about a year or two
older than me.
I was leaving with my aunts and cousins when I said goodbye to
the MOB and that I was really looking forward to seeing everyone at the wedding.
She got a really weird look on her face and mentioned that “children”
wouldn’t be invited! I was shocked and didn’t know what
to say! I was 21 at the time and just a year or two younger than the bride
and here I was being referred to as a child!! Apparently, I was good
enough for the bridal shower, but not good enough for the wedding!
A couple of years ago, I and several friends were invited to a
wedding shower, for the daughter of a common friend. We invitees commented some
to each other that it was odd that we were invited since we barely knew or
didn't know at all the daughter who was getting married. But in the interest of
being supportive to our friend, the Mother-of-the-bride-to-be, we all agreed to
go, and bought gifts from the registry, and went. (The mother and her family
have always been financially strapped, so we wanted to help - tried to ignore
any sense that lots of distant people had been invited in order to "pump
up" the gift haul. We all later said we wondered about it, and then felt
petty that we had.)
Once at the shower, there were clearly 2 social groups there:
the older women who were the mother's friends, and the younger contemporaries of
the bride. Little interaction occurred between the groups. This in and of itself
wasn't such a problem, and in fact may be common. But again, many of us remarked
to each other that we were surprised and confused about getting the invitation
to a shower of someone we barely or didn't know. The gifts were given,
everything was lovely, we all felt fine.
Within a month or so after the shower, communication was
circulated that the marriage was called off and the kids had split up. I guess I
expected to have the gifts returned, but nothing was ever said to anyone about
the gifts. Nothing further has ever been said about the gifts. Nor did anyone
ever receive any thank you for their gift, except some of us got a verbal thanks
for having contributed to the "tribe of older women" welcoming the
Sorry to sound oversensitive, maybe this is a opportunity to
just be charitable, but it felt manipulative and tacky. Now the daughter is to
marry someone else, and I think I will decline being a part of the
"tribe" and assume my gift has already been given.
I have a friend named Carol who has always been more than a
little self-centered. There are many, many stories I could tell, but I'm going
to leave you with just the rudest...
Over a long holiday weekend, Carol announced that she and her
long-time boyfriend Draco were getting married. (Our immediate advice to him:
Run while you still can!) Carol was right in her element--the center of
attention and about to do one of her favorite things--plan a "big
Shortly afterward, a mutual friend, Alicia, was asked to be
Carol's maid of honor. Alicia was hesitant--she works full time and was, at the
time, also a full time student. But she agreed because she and Carol had been
friends most of their lives. Carol soon decided she wanted one big shower for
her family and friends, and told Alicia it was her job to throw it. Alicia is a
very warm and caring person, but she has a hard time saying no, even when she's
in over her head. She agreed to throw the shower. As none of the other
bridesmaids were local, another friend, Georgia, and I agreed to help, both with
our time and with our money. So Alicia planned a basic outline for a traditional
tea, something that she felt Carol would enjoy. She asked Carol for a list of
names so she could have a rough guideline of how many people might attend and
thus, how to allocate funds. She told Carol she had enough space in her
apartment for 15 people. Carol's bottom lip came out and she started whining,
But I wanted a BIG shower!"
Carol then started demanding details of the shower. I know
Carol and I had told Alicia that if you give her an inch, Carol will run from
here to the moon. But Alicia thought it was best to give Carol some options and
make her feel involved, so she told her all the plans we had made. And Carol
started changing all of them. We couldn't buy funky mugs--she wanted "real
tea cups." No games, she hated those. She wanted the color scheme changed.
She wanted it held at a professional venue and wanted a catered meal--and all
three of us who were pitching in were pretty broke at the time! Alicia held firm
on the final two terms. The event would be held at her parents' house, and would
include only snacks, not a meal.
Time goes by, and there is only a month until the shower.
Alicia still has not received a guest list and has no idea how many people are
on the list. Carol waves off Alicia's concern--"Don't worry, I called
everyone and told them when the shower is!" She then suggests that the
shower could be held at Draco (GTB)'s parents house. Alicia refuses--she doesn't
know Draco's mom well and isn't about to hold a shower there when the house
hasn't been offered! She also offers to write the invitations for the shower,
because Alicia has such horrible spelling! Alicia, near tears, declines and
promises to have her roommates check them before they are mailed.
More time passes. Finally, 10 days before the shower is going
to be held, Alicia is furious and demands that Carol provide the guest list NOW.
Carol tells Alicia she'll be out of town until Sunday, a week before the event,
and says that she'll provide the information that day, and they can address the
invites together. Alicia tells her she gets off work at 5 pm, and Carol had
better be there, or have the list between the door and screen door to her house.
At five, she calls Carol and learns she's still not home, and
the list was never placed between the doors. She says she'll be home within an
hour and a half and will call when she arrives. Alicia comes to my house and we
are joined by our third friend, Georgia. Carol finally calls back at EIGHT pm!
Alicia tells her that she's currently occupied and will arrive at Carol's when
she's finished. She arrives at Carol's less than an hour later, only to find
Carol pouting. "Why did you change our plans? I was home when I said I
would be!" Alicia, furious but unable to say anything, takes the list and
is about to leave when Carol stops her. She gives Alicia 15 hand written notes
she wants included in several of the FIFTY invitations she wants Alicia to send
out. These notes basically say, "I know you can't attend, but I wanted you
to feel included." Alicia calls me in tears, saying she finds the
notes--and the invitations--for people who will definitely not be able to come
extremely tacky and a desperate grab for more gifts, and
she doesn't want it to seem like she condones it. In the end she mails them
anyway, with the idea that people "know how Carol is."
The event comes and is a great success. Georgia's mother comes
and does the behind the scenes "running" of the event--cleaning,
reorganizing food, etc--even though she is not invited to the shower or the
wedding. When the shower is over, Carol thanks everyone for attending and thanks
"those who did so much for the shower"--Alicia and the bridesmaids!
She doesn't thank Georgia, myself, Georgia's mother who worked so hard, or
Alicia's mother, who cleaned and handed her house over to us for the day.
One other note--apparently Draco's mother was the only one not
happy about the event. She told Alicia's mother she had wanted to the whole
thing to be held at her house and didn't understand why Alicia had turned her
Carol is now expecting her first baby, and Alicia, Georgia and
I are trying our hardest to avoid being roped into a baby shower.
I was the MOH in an old friend "Jane's" wedding.
Since my mother has known her for years as well, we were delighted to throw her
a bridal shower at my mother's house with about 15 guests. We spent most of the
day cooking hors d'oeuvres and desserts and decorating the house.
The shower began at 7 pm. At around 6:40, my fiancé was
outside the house in the driveway when a woman pulled up and got out (I was
inside the house - he told me about this later). She was carrying a baby about a
year old, dressed in jeans and sneakers, so he thought she was a neighbor. She
came up to him and said, "Smith?". Not, "Hello," or,
"Is this Jane's shower?," or, "Smith residence?", just
"Smith." He said, uhhh yeah, so she walked right by and into the house
without a word.
She then comes into the house. My mother and I were
frantically rushing around trying to finish preparations (I was juggling about
four dishes, she was cleaning). The woman comes in and just stands there.
Doesn't introduce herself, doesn't say anything at all. My mom says, "Oh
you must be here for the shower, sorry we aren't quite ready yet. Please, have a
seat, make yourself comfortable." She says, "Yeah I'm Jane's sister in
law." Period. We clearly have our hands full in the kitchen but she doesn't
offer to help at all. She sits down and watches TV.
I am in and out of the kitchen, but once I came into the room
to find her shouting at the TV, which was on the news and showing a politician
who had recently been elected, saying, "Booo!!! We don't like her, do we?!
Boooo!!" Never mind that you're in someone else's home who may not share
your political beliefs.
Then I come back into the room and find her changing her baby
on my mother's Oriental rug. I told her, "The bathroom is right here, I'm
sure you'll be more comfortable." She says, "No, this is fine."
Um, no it is not fine. Next time I come into the room, she's breastfeeding on
My mother is trying to make conversation with her this whole
time: "So, Jane must be excited about the wedding." "I don't
know, Jane and I aren't really on the same level."
"Do you work, or are you lucky enough to be able to stay
home with your baby?" "Oh no, I don't work, it's very important to
stay home with your children." (in the tone of voice that anyone who
doesn't is a bad mother).
She is not interested in carrying on any conversation, just
wants to watch the TV.
The shower was an 'hour shower' where every guest was supposed
to bring something appropriate to their assigned hour (a waffle machine for 7
am, etc.). Her hour was 9 am - she gives Jane pot holders, a turkey baster, and
a handful of cheerios "from the baby".
She was even more of a prize at other wedding events - wearing
an extremely short dress to the rehearsal dinner (and she is about 50 pounds too
heavy to be wearing clothing like that), constantly discussing breastfeeding at
every possible opportunity, letting her baby step all over Jane's beautiful
dress just before the ceremony.
Poor Jane - she was absolutely mortified when she found out
about her SIL's behavior and apologized about a million times for her. I just
feel sorry that she has to be related to this tacky woman!
About seven years ago, my then-boyfriend's sister (whom I will
call Carrie-Anne) and I gave a bridal shower for her FSIL. The bride-to-be
was a fantastic girl who happened to be a vegetarian – she ate milk, eggs and
fish, but no meat. The sister and I were both bridesmaids, and the only
local ones at that. It was a pretty small shower (8 people), and I was
responsible for bringing the paper goods and the dessert – Carrie-Anne would
take care of everything else, as it was at her house. Now, my
then-boyfriends family was never known for their tact, and I was actually
worried most about the brides FMIL (my boyfriends mother), as she was known for
pulling some outrageous stunts. We are talking about a woman who had
cancelled her own son’s wedding reception (to be held at her house) two weeks
before because she didn’t want guests walking on her new white carpet (that
she had just had installed for the very occasion). Her other son was given
a 20-year-old rusted Ford Bronco as a wedding present “to fix up”.
This woman is a professional, lives in a huge beachfront home on an island and
is worth a fortune after divorcing three men and taking them to the cleaners.
She deserves her own seat in Etiquette Hell….but I digress.
I arrived early to help, and she had done a nice job of
decorating and laying out what looked like a great spread: homemade dip, a
huge platter of sandwiches from the local deli, and lots of other finger foods.
The bride arrived, and was as gracious as she always was – a sweeter, more
considerate woman has never walked this earth. We had become close friends
over the past few years. We all sat down to eat, and Carrie-Anne and her
mother bustled to the kitchen for something. They came out with a
flourish, and presented the bride with a plate of MICROWAVED, LEFTOVER LASAGNA.
This was leftover from the EXACT MEAT THE MIL HAD SERVED THE BRIDE THE NIGHT
BEFORE. I looked around, and suddenly realized that Carrie-Anne had not
provided a SINGLE food item that was meatless – even the dip had ground beef
in it. The only other thing the poor bride got to eat was my dessert (a
How she is surviving this wretched family I will never
know…the boyfriend and I broke up suddenly a few months later, and the MIL
insisted that I be uninvited from the entire wedding. She finally gave up
being friends with me at the insistence of her MIL. Hopefully, she has
grown a thick skin!
Page Last Updated October 11, 2008